E-commerce and pharma fuel Virgin in the East

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The US East coast was one of Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s best-performing markets in 2016 in terms of volumes with 112,000 tonnes carried to and from the region – up nine per cent year-on-year.

E-commerce was one of the drivers of the airline’s growth with a record number of US-bound shipments in the fourth quarter, a level of demand continuing through the start of 2017. With Virgin’s 30 per cent share of capacity on the transatlantic, it is also gaining a growing share of what is the world’s largest pharmaceutical trade lane.

New York and the relatively new market for Virgin of Atlanta both performed consistently well over the last 12 months. 2017 has seen its East coast commitment increase further with the launch at the end of March of three flights a week from Manchester to Boston, which will be joined by daily Manchester – New York JFK services at the end of May.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo senior vice president, John Lloyd

The depreciation of the pound, however, in the second half of last year impacted both demand and yields and looks set to continue in 2017. Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director, John Lloyd (pictured) says: “Whilst not without its challenges, the East Coast remained a significant revenue generator for Virgin Atlantic through 2016. We grew our capacity by 13 per cent over the course of the year and market demand remained buoyant in both directions.”

Revenue on the East coast is up 10 per cent this year but the value of the pound and the impact of Brexit bring uncertainty to the market. Lloyd says Westbound remains stronger in volume and revenue terms but Eastbound continues to improve.

“We also expect a good contribution from our new routes ex Manchester because we’ve had good support from customers in the north of England for many years and they appreciate having the choice of direct services from Manchester in addition to the Virgin destinations they already use out of London,” Lloyd explains.